MD Abortion Docs Charged with Murder

Maryland Abortion Doctors Charged With Murder

BEN NUCKOLS   12/30/11 07:57 PM ET   AP

WASHINGTON — Authorities say two out-of-state doctors who traveled to Maryland to perform late-term abortions have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder, an unusual use of a law that allows for murder charges in the death of a viable fetus.

Dr. Steven Brigham, of Voorhees, N.J., was taken into custody Wednesday night and is being held in the Camden County jail, according to police in Elkton, Md. Authorities also arrested Dr. Nicola Riley in Salt Lake City and she is in jail in Utah. Each is awaiting an extradition hearing.

A grand jury indicted the two doctors after a 16-month investigation, police said.

The investigation began in August 2010 after what authorities say was a botched procedure at Brigham’s clinic in Elkton, located near the border of Maryland and Delaware.

An 18-year-old woman who was 21 weeks pregnant suffered a ruptured uterus and an injured bowel, according to documents filed in a previous investigation by medical regulators. Rather than call 911, Riley drove her to a nearby hospital, where both she and Brigham were uncooperative and Brigham refused to give his name, documents show.

A search of the clinic after the botched abortion revealed a freezer containing 35 late-term fetuses, including one believed to have been aborted at 36 weeks, the documents show.

Brigham, 55, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy. Riley, 46, faces one count each of first- and second-degree murder and one conspiracy count.

The charges relate to the botched procedure as well as other abortions performed at the Elkton clinic or fetuses found there, authorities said.

Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Roberts declined to elaborate on the charges or the circumstances that led to them, saying it would be inappropriate to comment before Brigham and Riley, who were taken into custody on fugitive warrants, had seen the indictments.

Maryland is one of 38 states that allows murder charges to be brought against someone accused of killing a viable fetus. The 2005 state law has so far only been used for cases in which defendants were accused of assaulting or killing pregnant women.

“We are in uncharted territory,” Roberts said. “At some point in time,” he added, “you will hear our explanation” of the charges.

The state law allows for murder or manslaughter charges to be brought against a person who intends to kill or seriously injure a fetus or who wantonly disregards the safety of a fetus. It does not apply to doctors administering lawful medical care and does not impinge on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

Brigham’s attorney, C. Thomas Brown, said in an emailed statement that he does not believe his client has violated any Maryland laws. He said he has not seen any charging documents or spoken with Brigham since the arrest.

“Dr. Brigham has fully cooperated with this investigation,” Brown said. “I had an agreement with the state’s attorney’s office that if Dr. Brigham was charged, he would voluntarily come to Maryland to surrender. For reasons unknown to me, the state did not honor that agreement. … It is my opinion that Dr. Brigham’s arrest in New Jersey was orchestrated to ensure that he remained in custody over this holiday weekend.”

An attorney for Riley also took issue with her client being behind bars.

“We believe the charges are without legal merit,” said attorney Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum. “We believe it’s inappropriate for her to be held without bond. She is not a flight risk and she should be released on her own recognizance.”

Krevor-Weisbaum said Riley’s legal team would comment further after they had seen the indictment.

A spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group, said she was not aware of any cases in the United States in which an abortion provider had been charged with murder in the death of a fetus. A Philadelphia doctor, Kermit Gosnell, faces murder charges in the deaths of seven newborn babies but has not been charged with killing fetuses.

The botched 2010 abortion led regulators to order Brigham to stop practicing medicine in Maryland without a license, and Riley’s Maryland license was suspended. Brigham’s New Jersey license was also suspended, leaving him without a valid license in any state, and New Jersey authorities are pursuing revocation of his license there. New Jersey authorities have cooperated with the Maryland criminal probe, said Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.

According to regulators, Brigham would begin abortions in New Jersey and have his patients drive themselves to Maryland to complete the procedures, taking advantage of Maryland’s more permissive laws. Brigham was not authorized to perform abortions in New Jersey after the first trimester, and regulators called his actions manipulative and deceptive.

In Maryland, licensed physicians can perform abortions before the fetus is deemed capable of surviving outside the womb, and abortions of viable fetuses are permitted to protect the life or health of the mother or if the fetus has serious genetic abnormalities. Doctors generally consider fetuses to be viable starting around 23 weeks.

Anti-abortion activists hailed the arrests of Brigham and Riley.

“These two individuals are now where they belong and should be in jail for the rest of their lives,” the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a statement. “Even those who believe abortion should be legal can join with us to stop the out-of-control practices of people like Brigham and Riley.”

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Some Muslim Leaders Boycott Interfaith Breakfast to Protest Spying

30 December 2011 Last updated at 11:11 ET, BBC News

Muslims boycott Mayor Bloomberg’s interfaith breakfast

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (right) shakes hands with an imam at the interfaith breakfast on 30 December 2011

Islamic leaders in New York City have boycotted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast, in protest at reports of surveillance on Muslims.

They declined their invitations to the annual meeting in a letter outlining their concerns.

The Associated Press news agency first reported in August that the city police department had tried to infiltrate Muslim neighbourhoods and mosques.

Mr Bloomberg has insisted the city’s counter-terrorism efforts are legal.

Fourteen Muslim leaders and a number of other community figures – including rabbis, a Roman Catholic nun and Protestant pastors – signed the letter boycotting the Friday breakfast, which is meant to celebrate the city’s diversity.

Moles ‘played cricket’

Rabbi Michael Weisser, however, said beforehand that he would attend the breakfast after Muslim friends urged him to use the opportunity to raise their concerns with the mayor.

Rabbi Weisser told the Associated Press he had no problem with the police department following leads, but objected to any official targeting of Muslim organisations.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur Rashid poses for a portrait in New York on 29 December 2011

“From a Jewish perspective, it reminded me of things that were going on in the 1930s in Germany,” Rabbi Weisser said.

“We don’t need that in America. We can’t be painting a whole group of people with the same broad brush.”

But not all Muslim leaders boycotted the event.

Imam Shamsi Ali, of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, said: “I think everyone disagrees with the way the NYPD is penetrating the community, but I think generalising everything else as bad is not appropriate.”

Mr Bloomberg has previously won praise from the city’s Muslim leaders for strongly defending proposals to build an Islamic prayer and cultural centre near the former World Trade Center site.

But reports that the NYPD collected information on people who were neither accused nor suspected of wrongdoing have led to a sense of betrayal among some in the community.

According to AP, undercover officers gathered information through chatting with shop owners and patrons and playing on cricket teams, as part of a surveillance programme designed by a CIA officer.

Top 10 News Stories of 2011

Here’s what I consider to be the top ten news stories of 2011 in no particular order.  Are there any that I should have added/taken away?

Osama Bin Laden Killed: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/osama-bin-laden-killed/story?id=13505703#.Tv8XXjVWrLA

New York Allows Same Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html?pagewanted=all

Gaddafi Killed in Hometown: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/20/us-libya-idUSTRE79F1FK20111020

Georgia Executes Troy Davis: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-09-21/troy-davis-georgia-execution/50491648/1

Iraq War Comes to an End: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/as-iraq-war-ends-no-large-scale-parade-for-troops-planned/

Japanese Tsunami: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/pictures/110315-nuclear-reactor-japan-tsunami-earthquake-world-photos-meltdown/

#OccupyWallStreet: http://www.thenation.com/article/163719/occupy-wall-street-faq

The Arab Spring: http://www.npr.org/2011/12/17/143897126/the-arab-spring-a-year-of-revolution

Joplin Tornado: http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10007861.html

Kim Jong Il Dies: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16239693

Bring on 2012.

Women flock to educational opportunities

Instead of Work, Younger Women Head to School

By , NY Times
Published: December 28, 2011

Workers are dropping out of the labor force in droves, and they are mostly women. In fact, many are young women. But they are not dropping out forever; instead, these young women seem to be postponing their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in three decades — more young women in school than in the work force.

“I was working part-time at Starbucks for a year and a half,” said Laura Baker, 24, who started a master’s program in strategic communications this fall at the University of Denver. “I wasn’t willing to just stay there. I had to do something.”

Many economists initially thought that the shrinking labor force — which drove down November’s unemployment rate — was caused primarily by discouraged older workers giving up on the job market. Instead, many of the workers on the sidelines are young people upgrading their skills, which could portend something like the postwar economic boom, when millions of World War II veterans went to college through the G.I. Bill instead of immediately entering, and overwhelming, the job market.

Now, as was the case then, one sex is the primary beneficiary. Though young women in their late teens and early 20’s view today’s economic lull as an opportunity to upgrade their skills, their male counterparts are more likely to take whatever job they can find. The longer-term consequences, economists say, are that the next generation of women may have a significant advantage over their male counterparts, whose career options are already becoming constrained.

For now at least, many young women still feel that the deck is stacked against them.

“Almost everyone in my program is female,” said Ms. Baker, who hopes a master’s degree will help her get a job running communications at a nonprofit group. “That’s partly because of the program, but also because as women we feel like we have to be more educated to be able to compete in really any field.”

Women still earn significantly less than men. And in the two and a half years since the recovery officially began, men age 16 to 24 have gained 178,000 jobs, while their female counterparts have lost 255,000 positions, according to the Labor Department.

Apparently discouraged by scant openings, 412,000 young women have dropped out of the labor force entirely in the last two and a half years, meaning they are not looking for work.

Among young men, the labor force fell during the recession but has been flat since the recovery began. Today, across all age groups, an unemployed female worker is 35 percent more likely to drop out of the labor force in the next month than an unemployed male worker.

Some studies suggest that women are pickier about their job choices than men. Already earning lower pay, women are less willing to work when wages fall further, especially if they are able to rely on an employed (and these days, often newly re-employed) husband. Women are also more reluctant to work night or weekend shifts, according to government data on how Americans spend their time, partly because they have more family responsibilities.

“The jobs out there just aren’t very good, and men seem more willing to take them for whatever reason,” said Jonathan L. Willis, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “The women are looking at those same jobs and saying, ‘I’ll be more productive elsewhere.’ ”

Then there are societal influences that affect a person’s willingness to take a lesser job or return to school.

“There is still this heavy cultural message that men should be out there earning money and supporting themselves, and they feel more distressed by losing their breadwinner role,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. “We’ve made much more progress overcoming the ‘feminine mystique’ than this masculine mystique.”

While these roles evolve, community colleges are reporting record enrollment.

Both men and women are going back to school, but the growth in enrollment is significantly larger for women (who dominated college campuses even before the financial crisis). In the last two years, the number of women ages 18 to 24 in school rose by 130,000, compared with a gain of 53,000 for young men.

The education gap aside, in some ways young women will already have an advantage over men in the coming decade. Many of the occupations expected to have the most growth, like home health aides and dental hygienists, have traditionally been filled by women. That is not to say that men cannot take those positions, but they may not want to.

“Today young girls are told they can do anything, go into any occupation. But if boys express any interest in traditionally female occupations, they get teased and bullied,” Ms. Coontz said. “Lots of guys are not understanding what’s happening to traditional low-income or middle-income male jobs.”

Jobs in the male-dominated manufacturing industry and in other sectors involving manual labor have been, and still are, in structural decline. These careers can also be hard to maintain indefinitely because youthful strength eventually fades. And now many manufacturing workers do not have pensions to carry them through when their bodies do break down.

“It doesn’t surprise me that in a poor economy women are ramping up their schooling,” said Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning research organization. “The real question is: Why aren’t more men doing that too?”

The main risk in going back to school is the accompanying student loan debt. Tuition increases have been outpacing inflation for years, a trend accelerated by state budget cuts.

“Our funding per student has been cut 25 percent in the last three years,” said Stephen Scott, the president of Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, N.C., which is one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the country. Consequently, class sizes have risen, and so has tuition. But the students — again, mostly women — still pour in.

“We now have 6,000 students on a waiting list because we didn’t have the resources to offer more classes,” he said.

Those attending more expensive private schools, like Ms. Baker, will have an even tougher time guaranteeing that their educational investment pays off. Including the loans that financed her undergraduate education at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, she will complete her master’s program next year owing about $200,000 in debt.

“I have to have faith that I will eventually get a good job that pays enough to pay my living expenses and pay back my loans,” she said, “and hopefully make me happy in the process.”

SC can’t prove that it suffers from voter fraud…therefore doesn’t need voter ID law

Exposing The Lie: South Carolina Can’t Prove the Need for Voter ID Law

December 29, 2011
By , PoliticusUSA

Ed Schultz talks to Professor Caroline Heldman about South Carolina’s voter ID law being blocked by the federal government. This marks the first time in 20 years a voter ID law has been rejected. Republicans have made voter ID laws their cause of the year, in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of voter fraud occurring. In fact, South Carolina was unable to justify the need for the voter ID laws because they could not prove that voter fraud was a problem in the state.

South Carolina is on the list of states requiring federal preclearance before changes to voting laws, due to its history of racial discrimination. Voting ID laws impact minorities more than whites, as minorities in the state are 20% less likely to have a photo ID. The Department of Justice blocked the new law because it could keep tens of thousands of minorities in the state from voting.

Transcript from MSNBC with minor corrections:

Ed Scultz: Professor, if the law is considered discriminatory, why isn’t the Department of Justice rejecting similar voter i.d. laws in other states? What do you think?

Caroline Heldman: I think it’s probably because those states aren’t on the list of eight states that require preclearance because of their history of discrimination, as Katie has pointed out. He’s specifically going after south Carolina and Texas because they’re on that list. Eric Holder could under section 2 also go after any law that is discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He’s not chosen to do that. I guess I’m a little more pessimistic because I think it’s hard for the average American because of the way this has been framed as voter fraud. Who doesn’t want to stand against fraud?

Because of the way it’s been framed by a lot of conservative outlets, I think it’s hard to make the case that we shouldn’t require i.d. I think it’s hard for people to understand that if they have i.d., it doesn’t mean everyone can get it. That’s the uphill battle. It’s a political hot potato for President Obama to step into this mess. He will face backlash from people who think it’s common sense that people should have i.d.s even though 11% of the American public does not.

Ed Schultz: Well, not everybody in thus country understands how the poor actually lives and how destitute some people can be and want to throw all sorts of restrictions on them. This is a bunch of hoops they have to jump through if they’re going to have the process of having their voice heard. You know, professor, when you look at this, if there’s no voter fraud, it seems to me the Republicans are going to do everything they possibly can to make the case to the American people that there’s fraud everywhere. What about that?

Caroline Heldman: I think what we’re doing is lumping three types of fraud together. One is voter registration fraud which a.c.o.r.n. did engage in. These laws only affect voter impersonation fraud which wouldn’t be at all affecting what happened with a.c.o.r.n.

(Note: ACORN got in trouble because a few of their workers got caught registering non-existent people to vote, an example from their voter registration fraud was registering “Mickie Mouse” to vote. They made money per name, so the few that violated ACORN’s rules did this for money, not because someone was going to attempt to vote under the name Mickey Mouse. It was never about voter fraud. Also, while we’re setting that record straight, President Obama did not work with ACORN in the 2008 campaign. He was very specific about setting up his own get out the vote team and volunteers to register voters. The only party affiliated with arrest for massive election fraud and voter fraud in 2008 due to their voter registration schemes and voting under false address is the company (YPM) the Republican Party hired to manage their voter registration and that company’s owner. “Jacoby’s arrest by state investigators and the Ontario Police Department late Saturday came after dozens of voters said they were duped into registering as Republicans by people employed by YPM. The voters said YPM workers tricked them by saying they were signing a petition to toughen penalties against child molesters.” Now you know why Republicans talk about ACORN constantly.)

The second, our poll workers or others in positions of power engaging in fraud. Again, this only deals with voter impersonation. When I have conversations about this with folks on the right, they lump all of it together and say it’s a big issue. As you know, Ed, you’re 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than engage in voter impersonation and four times more likely to report a ufo. I wish Eric Holder would go after the states to justify the decisions. In South Carolina, they weren’t able to show an issue with fraud which is the boldfaced lie on which the efforts are based.

END transcript

The next time someone tells you that it only makes sense to show ID at the polls, ask them why South Carolina couldn’t show any proof that voter fraud was going on. If there’s no voter fraud, why do they feel compelled to spend all of this money enacting a policy to protect the system from a non-existent threat?

Here’s the answer: Voter fraud is this year’s WMD.

Voter fraud hardly ever occurs. There are already criminal repercussions for committing voter fraud (which the Republicans who have engaged in voter fraud have largely managed to avoid).

The voter fraud epidemic is a lie. There are good reasons why laws were put into place to protect minority voters and no good reason to change those laws. Minorities are not running around trying to commit voter fraud.

Anyone who tells you they are is not being factual and clearly has no idea what it’s like to live in actual poverty, without access to a car or the ability to get time off of work to go to the DMV to get (and pay for, even though they are supposed to be free – see Wisconsin) their photo ID. People in deep poverty are lucky if they can get to the polls at all.

We need all citizens to vote and we need to protect the rights of the poor, lest we end up in a system where only the wealthy can vote. Sure, they’re not coming for YOUR vote right now, but do you think they would stop at targeting the poverty stricken? What’s next, the middle class can’t vote unless they can prove their address via mail coming from a stockbroker to their address? I suspect many of the folks who think this is common sense have not lived under these rules and don’t realize that these laws stop thousands of people from being able to vote.

Can you dig up your marriage license (if you’re a woman) to prove your name change of twenty years ago even though you have a valid driver’s license with your proper name on it? You’ll also need your Social Security card and three pieces of mail addressed to you, one of which they “prefer” to come from a major bank (not that this is a poll tax).

I hope you haven’t moved recently or lost your marriage license or divorce license. What if you don’t have any money in a major bank or utilities in your name because you are staying with family until you get back on your feet? Too bad for you, and you, and you. You don’t get to vote this time. But oh, boy, you do have to pay those taxes the Republicans think you owe the 1%. You’ll not get out of your taxes so easily.

Imagine being poverty stricken and having to go back home three times to track down the proper items necessary to get your voter ID card; take time off of work three different days, get transportation, and wait in line all to vote? Forget it. Food is more important. A lot of people will be discouraged from voting and are being discouraged under those rules.

The logic in the Republicans’ framing of the voter fraud issue is opposite of reality and sense. There is no need for these laws because voter fraud is not a problem.

We note that last week one of the Republican poster boys for voter ID laws in Indiana was ordered out of office after being indicted on seven felony counts including voter fraud. Voter fraud is rare, but when it happens, it’s often someone wealthy or privileged who votes from the wrong address of their many homes or is using an old address in order to qualify for a certain position or is using their kid’s address so they can vote in that specific area.

Perhaps this whole voter ID thing needs to be turned around to target the people who actually commit voter fraud. Anyone with more than one home should be subject to having their vote held until they can prove they actually live in the area they are voting (see Mitt Romney, Wisconsin RepublicansRepublican chief election officer for the state of Indiana).

And since so many Republicans are in the news these days for voter fraud, perhaps we target that group specifically. After all, we wouldn’t want even one person to commit voter fraud. And any Republican who defends these Republicans and is against ensuring that more Republicans do not violate our laws obviously has a political agenda to gain the system with fraudulent votes.

That’s how the logic works in reverse. Is that working for everyone yet?

“Maybe it’s just me, but civil debates on marriage equality don’t necessarily encompass images of an assassin targeting newlyweds.”

North Carolina Family Policy Council’s ‘Sniper’ Image To Promote Same-Sex Marriage Ban Sparks Controversy

Gay Wedding Protest Pic
First Posted: 12/29/11 05:24 PM ET Updated: 12/29/11 05:34 PM ET, The Huffington Post

The North Carolina Family Policy Council’s use of a violent image to promote the state’s proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage has ignited controversy among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates.

The photograph, which can be found on page 13 of the winter 2012 issue of the organization’s Family North Carolina publication, shows a traditionally-dressed bride and groom being targeted by an unseen sniper. It illustrates an article titled “Marriage In Society’s Moral Crosshairs,” by Jacqueline Schaffer, J.D.

“Protecting traditional marriage by enshrining it in the State Constitution is not only socially beneficial, but it is also necessary to protect religious liberty,” Schaffer writes. “When the state sanctions a morally controversial lifestyle such as homosexuality, it will inevitably draw itself into conflict with the religious and moral beliefs of its citizens. Such conflict, however, is not hypothetical, and its outcomes are already well-documented.”

The image has sparked the ire of several bloggers. Writes Unicorn Booty‘s Kevin Farrell: “Did the North Carolina Family Policy Council somehow sleep through that time Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head after Sarah Palin put her in a rifle’s crosshairs? Didn’t we come to the societal conclusion that crosshairs and gun imagery?”

Adds Alvin McEwen
 of LGBTQ Nation: “Maybe it’s just me, but civil debates on marriage equality don’t necessarily encompass images of an assassin targeting newlyweds.”

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Psychological Association has published what officials have deemed four top reasons why opposing same-sex marriage “is bonkers.” Among them: “There is empirical evidence that opposing denial of marriage rights initiatives has beneficial psychological effects,” and “Psychologists have colleagues and we have clients for whom this issue is relevant and important, and who appreciate representation. From a social justice perspective, significant benefits accrue to all of us when diverse families are legally and socially sanctioned.”

Still, the chances of achieving marriage equality in North Carolina ahead of an amendment on the May 8 primary ballot, which would restrict the state’s recognition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman and place more restrictions on civil unions and domestic partnerships, remain uncertain. “From a biblical position, all I can do is state my position: I believe that homosexuality is a sin,” Rev. Mark Harris, senior minister at Charlotte’s First Baptist Church who was recently elected to a yearlong term as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, tells the Charlotte Observer. “That said, I don’t believe that that position is at the heart of this amendment. If homosexuals choose to maintain a relationship and live together, that’s their business. I don’t believe people should be discriminated against.”

He went on to note that same-sex marriages aren’t good for children: “I just believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ideal. It is such a unique union, and it is absolutely essential to the future of humanity.”

Fox apologizes for being offensive – are we surprised?

Fox Apologizes To Jews For Jesus Facebook Poll

First Posted: 12/29/11 05:44 PM ET Updated: 12/29/11 07:36 PM ET

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Fox Latin America has apologized for a poll on whether Jews killed Jesus Christ that one of its staffers put on a Facebook page promoting the National Geographic Channel’s Christmas special.

The poll asked readers who they think is responsible for the death of Christ: Pontius Pilate, The Jewish People or the High Priests.

The Simon Weisenthal Center in Buenos Aires calls it a defamatory reference to Vatican propaganda that “resulted in the persecution and murder of Jews for two millennia.”

The Jewish group says it’s outraged that Fox would perpetuate an idea that the Vatican annulled back in 1965.

Fox Spokeswoman Guadalupe Lucero apologized on behalf of National Geographic, saying the poll was removed immediately and measures have been taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

US sells 30bn worth of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia

Fighter Jet Deal: U.S. Reportedly Plans To Sell F-15s To Saudi Arabia

Us To Sell F15s To Saudi Arabia
LOLITA C. BALDOR and MATTHEW LEE   12/28/11 11:16 PM ET   AP

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is poised to announce the sale of nearly $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The deal will send 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more, for a total of $29.4 billion, according to the officials, who requested anonymity because the sale has not been made public.

The agreement boosts the military strength of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, at a time when the Obama administration is looking to counter Iranian threats in the region. Underscoring that effort was a fresh threat this week from Tehran, which warned that it could disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital Persian Gulf oil transport route, if Washington levies new sanctions targeting Iran’s crude oil exports.

About a year ago, the administration got the go-ahead from Congress for a 10-year, $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that included F-15s, helicopters and a broad array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, as well as radar warning systems and night-vision goggles.

The plan initially raised concerns from pro-Israeli lawmakers, but U.S. officials reassured Congress that Israel’s military edge would not be undercut by the sale. Additionally, there is now broad agreement among Israel, the Gulf Arab states and the West that Iran poses a significant and unpredictable threat.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter regional rivals. Tensions between them were further stoked earlier this year after the U.S. accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington.

Saudi Arabia is already the most militarily advanced of the Arab Gulf states, one of the richest countries in the world, and central to American policy in the Middle East. It is also vital to U.S. energy security, with Saudi Arabia ranking as the third-largest source of U.S. oil imports.